Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Contemplative Prayer vs. Glossolalia

By Paik Sanghoon

Thank you for your bringing up the question again for a better apprehension of the part of what had been said in the lecture, the relation of contemplation and glossolalia.

And I also appreciate your fine understanding of the relation of Christian meditation and Buddhist practice and of great values of monasticism that speak critically to the contemporary world.

First of all, I have to acknowledge that my use of the word “contemplation” in my lecture had to be limited to an aspect of contemplation, that is, the way in which one sees into thing as they are, and this inevitably limited use might cause confusion and bewilderment in you and/or among others attending.

As I then said, the word “contemplation” has been variously used in the Christian tradition depending on the employers of the word. I would like to trace its first form back to the desert fathers that first appeared around 3-4th centuries in Egypt, Syria, and Palestine.

The way of their meditation is called “prayer of heart,” since their primal focus was on the inner, individual communication with God through their hearts.
They tried to introspect with keen awareness of God’s presence and aspired to get in touch with God going beyond human words and language, because they were well aware that God could not be fully grasped with human words and language.

This is why they prayed not with their heads but with their hearts, and how their way came to be called “prayer of heart,” which has definitely been considered a way of contemplation.
When I am willing to put “glossolalia” into the category of “contemplation,” I have the desert fathers and their “prayer of heart” in mind.

Glossolalia is the phenomenon that comes as one goes beyond one’s words in his or her communication with God, despite the fact that he or she is actually speaking something with his or her lips.

In other words, the person in speaking in tongues is praying not with his or her head, but with “heart.”
Say, one’s lips are vibrating and yet his or her heart is touching upon God or God’s presence.

In this sense, glossolalia can be, I assume, a way of contemplation. And, as such, contemplation belongs not only to the Catholic Church tradition but also to the Protestant tradition where some sort of different types of spirituality are preferred to those of the Catholic tradition. (My idea that glossolalia is part of contemplation is original.)
I hope this will be a help to you.

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